Monthly Archives: August 2020

Theodore Brun: A Burning Sea (review)

book cover of A Burning Sea

A Burning Sea  (2020)
(The third book in the Wanderer Chronicles series)

Erlan Aurvandil has turned his back on the past and his native Northern lands, taking a perilous journey to the greatest city in the world, Constantinople. But as his voyage ends, Erlan is brutally betrayed, captured and enslaved by a powerful Byzantine general. Meanwhile, Lilla Sviggarsdottir, Queen of Svealand, has lost her husband and with him, her father’s kingdom. Her life in danger, Lilla escapes to find Erlan, the one man who can save her, following his trail to the very gates of Constantinople. But corruption infests the city, and a dark tide is rising against the Emperor from within his own court. As the shadows darken and whispers of war begin to strengthen, Erlan’s fate becomes intertwined with that of the city. Are they both doomed to fall, or can freedom be won in the blood of battle?

Review

This is a series that has intrigued me since book one, its in the main an Historical Fiction novel, but dances around some fantasy and supernatural, which is to say that in its historical period anything that cannot be explained has a supernatural/ fantasy edge, especially with the introduction of Azazel (from the book of Enoch, the demon/ fallen angel that corrupted man). Its the inclusion of this element/ character at first that made me skeptical of the book, but came for me to make the book. It added a darker hidden element to the original plot, and now in book 3 has become a driving force in Erlan’s travels and life. It is to excise this influence that he leaves and travels to Constantinople and becomes embroiled in the politics and war of a much larger world, truly a wanderer, a man haunted by so much of his past that he must keep moving, a man who is driven to be more than he is, but weighted down by so much regret for what has gone awry with his life and his perceived destiny.

To offset Erlans POV we also have Lilla’s, who herself has gone through so much to and given up so much to save her fathers kingdom, only for it to be cruelly snatched away from her again. She must chase Erlan footsteps into the unknown, following his trail to the greatest city on earth, and attempt to bring him and hopefully an army back and win her kingdom again.

This for me is easily the best book of the series, while i have enjoyed the Azazel edge to the tales, book 3 brings about its climax (or does it… never assume and author is done)… Erlans internal fight against the taint of this demon and its baresark rage sets him apart, but his fight for more, to prove he is more, that he can fight and live without the demon really makes his character stand out in book 3, we start i think to see who Hakan is and can be. The inclusion of Einar in the book is IMHO genius, he brings the needed humour to the tale that could otherwise be too dark at times, a character with indomitable courage and will, a man with an iron word who will be there to the end and beyond, and most especially with something sarcastic or funny to add.

In among all the fighting and scheming is also a love story and a story of personal discovery, Erlan has loved and lost, and in that loss he lost his identity, he lost his home, his life and how to be himself, in part he has run from so he is so he can try and escape the pain of that loss, both family and his childhood love. Nothing in his life prepared him for the pain he would feel and the desolation it would bring to his world, i think this allowed him to throw himself into what ever came next, he had tried to numb himself to mental emotion and pain, and accept the physical pain in its stead, this helped shape the warrior he has become, his fatalistic approach to all, yet some part of Hakan is always there because he still craves that friendship, and then the sunrise of Lila has slowly made him doubt Erlans existence….its this underlying plot that really gives the story its power.

All of this is against the backdrop of Constantinople on the verge of destruction, the Muslim army is at the door, traitors abound, and a new emperor must walk the tightrope of politics and war, both internally and externally. I normally shy from byzantine books, but every now and again someone manages to show me the majesty and the machinations of the time and its location and so hooks me (it helps that it includes vikings).

I find these days the speed that i read is a very good indication of my enjoyment, this is a 512 page book, a decent door stop, as all in the series have been. But i read it in the same amount of time i read my last 200 page book, its a book that engages from the first page, and throws you into the plot, i felt at times like i’d been kidnapped, stuck in the bowels of the ship or the corner of a cell to cower and endure the journey/ confinement, to feel all the trials of Erlan and just when finally we are saved from servitude and punishment i was thrust with him into the tale of backstabbing and war. its a book that thrills and exhausts at the same time (i was up until the early hours reading this, i couldn’t put it away). I’m now left lamenting the end, but rejoicing that there will be more, and i shall be prodding Mr Brun for book 4…. because i cant wait.

This book is easily going to be top 10 for the year, i highly suspect top 5.

Very highly recommended

(Parm)

 

 

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Series
Wanderer Chronicles
   1. A Mighty Dawn (2017)
   2. A Sacred Storm (2018)
   3. A Burning Sea (2020)
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Novellas
   A Winter’s Night (2018)
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Filed under Historical Fiction, Theodore Brun

Steven A Mckay: The Northern Throne (Review)

book cover of The Northern Throne

(The third book in the Warrior Druid of Britain series)

Northern Britain, AD431, Spring.
Bellicus the Druid and his friend Duro, a former Roman centurion, have already suffered a great deal in recent years but, for them, things are about to get even worse.
Britain is changing. The Romans have gone and warriors from many different places seek to fill the void the legions left behind. In the south, the Saxons’ expansion seems unstoppable despite the efforts of the warlord Arthur, while north of Hadrian’s Wall various kings and chieftains are always looking to extend their borders.
In Dun Breatann, Bellicus believes the disparate northern tribes must put aside their differences, become allies, and face the Saxon threat together, under one High King. Or High Queen…
Small-minded men don’t always look at the bigger picture though, and, when Bellicus and Duro seek to form a pact with an old enemy, events take a shocking and terrible turn that will leave the companions changed forever.
This third volume in the Warrior Druid of Britain Chronicles is packed with adventure, battles, triumph, and tears, and at the end of it a new course will be set for Bellicus.
But at what cost?

Review

I’ve enjoyed watching the growth of Steven as a writer, i’ve been lucky enough to be involved in giving him feedback on some of the books, and most of all i’ve enjoyed this latest series “Warrior Druid of Britain” where he can grow his own main character, but also make it live on the edges of of one of the greatest tales of Britain, King Arthur and Merlin. Each book of this series sees the growth of Bellicus and the formation of his friendship with Duro a former Roman Centurion. There are shades of Macro and Cato (Simon Scarrow) in their relationship, but in these tales they are pure Mckay in their telling.

This latest book sees our duo put to the their greatest test, tortured , abused and betrayed, they must survive and they must save their queen and their home and as important they must find a way to get south and help Arthur and Merlin, to fight the great Saxon threat. There are some truly harrowing moments for both our heroes and neither will be the same by books end, but blimey its a hell of a ride for the reader, one i cant wait to continue.

Every book Steven has written has seen his skill as a writer evolve and grow to the point now that he is as good as anyone in his genre, if you haven’t read his work you are now spoiled for Legends with both Robin Hood and now Arthurian Britain… and both series are an excellent read.

(Parm)

 

Series
Forest Lord
   1. Wolf’s Head (2013)
   2. The Wolf and the Raven (2014)
   3. Rise of the Wolf (2015)
   4. Blood of the Wolf (2016)
   The Prisoner (2016)
   The Escape (2017)
Warrior Druid of Britain
   1. The Druid (2018)
   2. Song of the Centurion (2019)
   3. The Northern Throne (2020)
   Over the Wall (2020)
Collections
   The Rescue And Other Tales (2017)
Novellas
   Knight of the Cross (2014)
   Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil (2015)
   The Abbey of Death (2017)
   Faces of Darkness (2019)

 

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Anthony Riches : River of Gold (Review)

book cover of River of Gold

River of Gold (2020)
(Book 11 in the Empire series)

After saving the emperor’s life in Rome, Marcus and his comrades have been sent across the sea to the wealthy, corrupt Greek metropolis of Aegyptus, Alexandria.
An unknown enemy has slaughtered the garrison of the Empire’s last outpost before its border with the mysterious kingdom of Kush. Caravans can no longer reach the crucial Red Sea port of Berenike, from which the riches of the East flow towards Rome.
The Emperor’s most trusted and most devious adviser has ordered Marcus’s commander Scaurus and his trusted officers to the south. With orders that are tantamount to a suicide mission, and with only one slim hope of success.
Can a small force of highly trained legionaries restore the Empire’s power in this remote desert no-man’s-land, when faced by the fanatical army of Kush’s iron-fisted ruler?

Review

11 Books into this series and it still feels fresh new and exciting, which is a testament to the authors skill in writing a well researched and exciting story, but most of all a story full of real and alive characters, characters who make you feel the story. Anthony Riches main skill as a writer for me has always been his characters, and when he couples that with his utter disregard for their safety you get a book and series that is always going to thrill, always going to make you turn the next page and never let you put the book down until the last page is turned.

Anthony Riches is on my very short list of authors who are a one sit read, the book needs a whole day set aside to just sit back and enjoy, because the people and the plot wont allow for anything else, wont allow you to put it down for a moment. You spend the whole book wondering which main character he will murder next, and when you find it, when that moment hits you can imagine the evil little glint in his eye, because he knows you never saw it coming. He has developed so many characters to be the “Main character” that absolutely no one is safe, and this adds a truly unique element to his series. Mixing that with his truly impressive ability to thill and entertain has created on of the best series in the genre.

I loved River of Gold because i knew nothing of Kush, and as always with this authors books he left me just enough information and education to want to go and find more about this fascinating empire and its culture. I met new characters that i feel will be back in book 12, and after an utterly thrilling roller-coaster ride full of misdirection, action, humour, sudden violence and intricate problem solving, i was left totally satisfied with the story because there is that perfect mix of completion and desire for more.

Anthony Riches remains one of my all time favourite writers, because i can read anything he writes again and again, and never lose a moments enjoyment.

I highly recommend this book and the entire series.

(Parm)

Series
Empire
   1. Wounds of Honour (2009)
   2. Arrows of Fury (2010)
   3. Fortress of Spears (2011)
   4. The Leopard Sword (2012)
   5. The Wolf’s Gold (2012)
   6. The Eagle’s Vengeance (2013)
   7. The Emperor’s Knives (2014)
   8. Thunder of the Gods (2015)
   9. Altar of Blood (2016)
   10. The Scorpion’s Strike (2019)
   11. River of Gold (2020)
Centurions
   1. Betrayal (2017)
   2. Onslaught (2017)
   3. Retribution (2018)
   Betrayal: The Raid (2017)
   Centurions: Codex Batavi (2018)

 

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Filed under Anthony Riches, Historical Fiction

Paul Fraser Collard : Fugitive (Review)

book cover of Fugitive

Roguish hero Jack Lark – soldier, leader, imposter – crosses borders once more as he pursues a brand-new adventure in Africa.

London, 1868. Jack has traded the battlefield for business, running a thriving club in the backstreets of Whitechapel. But this underworld has rules and when Jack refuses to comply, he finds himself up against the East End’s most formidable criminal – with devastating consequences.

A wanted man, Jack turns to his friend Macgregor, an ex-officer, treasure hunter and his ticket out of England. Together they join the British army on campaign across the tablelands of Abyssinia to the fortress of Magdala, a high-stakes mission to free British prisoners captured by the notorious Emperor Tewodros.

But life on the run can turn dangerous, especially in a land ravaged by war . . .

 

Review

In 2013 i was asked to review a new title called “The Scarlet Thief”, and so was born one of my new favorite characters. Jack Lark was and is a newer grittier, tougher version of Sharpe, a more fallible and broken character, and at the same time one that felt so much more real and filled with adventure.

Jack Lark has had a rough time of it under Paul Collards pen, but every story is realistic and plausible and high octane fun. More than anything Jack Larks growth as a character has been a pleasure to experience, even the toughest, darkest days, because those are the ones where you the reader dig deep to urge him on, to hope for his survival and success, and experience every nuance of the story along side him.

Fugitive in the beginning sees a more peaceful Jack, a man enjoying the fruits of his labour, but at the same time you can sense the hidden darkness, like a caged tiger placidly walking the boundaries of his cage, looking for that moment when his true nature can explode and he can once again let loose his true nature, a killer of men.

Very soon life decides once again that Jack Lark isn’t destined to enjoy a peaceful retirement. He falls foul of a local gangster and needs to leave London fast, so adventure beckons in the form of an expedition to Abyssinia and to the fortress of Magdala. His friend Macgregor, an ex-officer and treasure hunter had asked for him to join him in making a name and making themselves rich, what hadn’t appealed to Jack before has suddenly become a lifeline, and so Jack joins a group of 4 headed into the unknown . As always with Jack, danger and death will be their companions and only Jack truly has the experience to help them survive whats ahead.

After some truly dark times for Jack that started in the devils assassin, i think this book helps Jack truly come to terms with who he is, his true nature and his place in the world, where he had fought against the darkness he accepts it now, a darkness he can control, unlike the evil men of the world Jack can turn to his darkness to survive and to save others but when peace reigns again then jack can settle back again to enjoy life, or to seek out more adventure. Abyssinia see’s jack come closer to death than ever before and to come alive in a way he hasn’t for a long time.

As always Paul Collard has written a truly wonderful story, one that pulled me into Jack Larks life again from page one and didn’t let me go until i turned the last page. He is one of the very few authors that i have to set aside a whole day for, because i simply cannot put the book down. Its a day i look forward to every year, drinking some beers, and sitting back in my comfy chair so i can devour the book in a single uninterrupted sitting.

Very Highly recommended, as is the whole series.

(Parm)

Series
Jack Lark
   0.5. Rogue (2014)
   1. The Scarlet Thief (2013)
   2. The Maharajah’s General (2013)
   3. The Devil’s Assassin (2015)
   4. The Lone Warrior (2015)
   5. The Last Legionnaire (2016)
aka The Forgotten Son
   6. The True Soldier (2017)
   7. The Rebel Killer (2018)
   8. The Lost Outlaw (2019)
   9. Fugitive (2020)
   Recruit (2015)
   Redcoat (2015)

 

 

 

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Paul Fraser Collard, Uncategorized